Cook Islands wedding - Image courtesy of Te Manava Luxury Villas
How to get married in the Cook Islands
With a choice of luxurious resorts and idyllic white-sand beaches fringed by gently swaying palm trees, the Cook Islands offer the perfect spot to say 'I do' – and the ideal destination for that long dreamt of beach wedding in the South Pacific!
Cook Islands Marriage Requirements
Renowned for it's unsurpassed natural beauty, the Cook Islands is the perfect venue for a south-sea island beach wedding. Powder white sand, friendly locals and a great climate make for an unforgettable beach wedding – anywhere in the Cook Islands.
In the Cook Islands, you can get married on a beach, in a lush tropical garden, on an uninhabited islet, in a local church or at your hotel. Most resorts offer wedding packages that can be customised to suit your own needs.
Marriages performed in the Cook Islands are recognised internationally and are legally binding worldwide.
Three full days, but it's best to arrive in Rarotonga at least four days before your wedding ceremony to allow time to apply for a Marriage Licence from the Registrar of Marriages.
The application for a Marriage License must be made in person to the Registrar of Marriages on the island where the wedding is intended to take place, at least three working days prior to the marriage.
If you lodge your notice less than the minimum three days as required you will be charged with a Waiver Fee.
You can apply for the wedding licence yourself, let the hotel arrange things for you as part of your wedding package or use a wedding planner.
Ensure that all documents are in your legal name, and provide affidavits in cases where you are known by another name.
All documents must be original – or a certified copy – and written in the English language or accompanied with a certified English translation.
Documents required for getting married in the Cook Islands, include…
- Valid Passports
- Birth Certificates
- Notice of Intended Marriage (made at the Registrar's Office in Avarua)
- Decree Absolute, if either party is divorced
- Death Certificate of deceased spouse, if either party is widowed
- Parental consent, if under 20 years of age
- Catholic couples need to have completed a course for engaged couples, such as the FOCCUS program, and will need to have baptism certificates.
You may choose either a non-religious marriage celebrant or an ordained minister to perform your wedding ceremony; you may also choose to marry at the registrar’s office.
There are several religious denominations active in the Cook Islands, including Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational, Cook Islands Christian Church, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon and Ba’hai. The marriage ceremony is performed in English. If either party does not speak English, an interpreter should be hired.
Some faiths may require additional documents for a religious service, whether held inside a church or elsewhere. You may want to check this with your wedding co-ordinator or local minister.
For instance, couples of the Roman Catholic faith should allow at least six months before the planned wedding date in order to process all the necessary paperwork (certificates of baptism, dispensations, statements of freedom to marry, etc.).
You should make contact with the priest whom you want to have officiate at your wedding as soon as possible. He will help you complete the necessary paperwork and provide part of your marriage preparation instruction.
Weddings in the Cook Islands can take place from Monday to Saturdays, but not on a Sunday owing to local customs. Two witnesses over 21 years of age must be present for the ceremony.
Both the bride and groom sign the three required documents at the ceremony. One of the forms is returned to the Registrar for Marriages in Rarotonga.
Your Marriage Certificate is issued in English and can be paid for and collected at the Ministry of Justice Office. Contact your local embassy if you require a translation and authentication for your resident country – an Apostille Seal (making it legal overseas) can be provided.
Apostille of Marriage Certificate
European Union citizens (except the United Kingdom and Ireland) may need to have their Marriage Certificate apostilled (or authenticated).
This does not apply to citizens of United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. Citizens of Asian countries, South and Central America should check with their Civil Registrar/Marriage Celebrant as to whether an Apostille is required for your country.
Applicable fees, include…
- Marriage Licence – NZD$100
- Marriage Certificate – NZD$25
- Marriage Waiver Fee – NZD$50 (If you wish to be married in less than the three day residency requirement)
- Marriage Amendment Fee – NZD$50
- Church Minister or Priest – donation (we suggest minimum of NZD$100)
- Marriage Celebrant – NZD$150 (minimum)
- Registrar of the Court – NZ$100
Many hotels and resorts offer experienced wedding co-ordinators who can insure that the entire process of getting married in the Cook Islands, including fulfilling all legal requirements, is stress free.
Please note: while accurate at time of publication this information is for guidance purposes only and liable to change without notice. Please check with your wedding planner at your resort of choice or the relevant embassy of the country in which you intend to marry for up-to-date details before your wedding.
Latest update How to get married in Cook Islands:
13 December, 2017
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